What is the harm to my baby if I smoke during pregnancy?

Smoking during pregnancy harms both you and your baby.

Smoking during pregnancy increases your baby’s risk of:

  • not getting enough oxygen
  • being stillborn
  • being born too early
  • having low birth weight
  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • being born with birth defect such as cleft lip or cleft palate
  • developing breathing problems.

Being born too early or with low birth weight means your baby is more likely to be sick and have to stay longer in hospital, or may even die.

What is the harm to my baby if I smoke after pregnancy?

Smoking after pregnancy increases your baby’s risk of:

  • asthma
  • bronchitis and pneumonia
  • chronic cough
  • ear infections
  • frequent colds
  • high blood pressure
  • learning and behaviour problems later in childhood.

What is the harm to me and my unborn baby if I smoke during pregnancy?

Smoking during pregnancy increases your risk of:

  • miscarriage
  • problems with your placenta, which is your baby’s source of food and oxygen.

What is the harm to me if I smoke before pregnancy?

Smoking before pregnancy makes it harder for you to get pregnant. It increases the risk of:

  • developing cancer (lung, throat, mouth, pancreas, bladder)
  • heart disease
  • lung disease
  • stroke
  • breathing difficulties
  • early death.

How many women smoke during pregnancy?

Overall between 2008 and 2010, just over 18 percent of New Zealand’s pregnant women smoked.

However this number varies between ethnicities, with many more Māori and Pacific Island pregnant women smoking:

 

Graph showing the percentage of pregnant women smoking in NZ

 

What difference will it make to me and my baby if I quit smoking?


Quit smoking and:

  • your baby will get more oxygen, after just 1 day
  • there’s less risk your baby will be born early or with birth defects
  • lower the risk your baby will develop breathing problems
  • you’ll have more money to spend
  • there’s less for you of risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer
  • your breathing and energy levels will get better
  • your hair, breath, clothes and home smell fresher
  • your taste and smell will get better

There is no safe way to smoke tobacco.

Talk to your midwife, or contact Quitline today, see how they can help you quit smoking. For you and your baby.

Quitline has a special service to help pregnant women quit smoking. This service is mainly phone-based and runs throughout your pregnancy until at least six weeks after baby is born. You can also name a person/whānau member(s) to be actively involved in supporting you to quit smoking.

 

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Quitline   Smokefree 2025